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Emory Vaccine Center selected to design universal flu vaccine candidates with NIH contract

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Emory University will work to develop a life-saving universal flu vaccine as part of a new network of research centers created through the National Institutes of Health.

Together with Mount Sinai, Emory has been awarded a $70 million contract through the Collaborative Influenza Vaccine Innovation Centers (CIVICs) program, a project of the NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The Mount Sinai-Emory multi-institutional vaccine center may receive up to $132 million over seven years if all contract options are exercised.

Rafi Ahmed, director of the Emory Vaccine Center, is a co-principal investigator on the project. Florian Kramer, professor of microbiology in the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, will serve as principal investigator and primary recipient of the award.

“The challenge with influenza infection is that the virus is changing continuously and when a pandemic strain emerges that is strikingly different, protection from the seasonal influenza vaccine is very minimal,” says Ahmed, a professor of microbiology and immunology in Emory's School of Medicine. 

“The goal of this CIVICs grant is to develop a universal influenza vaccine that would protect us not only from the currently circulating influenza virus strains but also from pandemic strains that may emerge in the future.”

Seasonal influenza causes hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and tens of thousands of deaths in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While current seasonal influenza vaccines provide important public health benefits, they do not always protect against all strains of circulating influenza viruses, and new seasonal influenza vaccines must be manufactured, distributed and administered to keep up with constantly evolving influenza viruses.

Universal flu vaccines developed through the CIVICs network could provide longer-lasting protection than current vaccines and against a wider variety of influenza viruses. In addition to the Mount Sinai-Emory vaccine innovation center, the network also includes centers at Duke University and the University of Georgia.

Emory resources to learn more about flu vaccines:

About Emory Vaccine Center: Emory Vaccine Center’s mission is to improve human health by conducting fundamental and translational research leading to the development of effective vaccines and immunotherapies against diseases of global importance. With more than 250 faculty and staff, it is the largest and most comprehensive vaccine research center in the world. The center focuses on the continuum of vaccine research, from basic science to clinical trials to vaccine policy.

About the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID): NIAID conducts and supports research—at NIH, throughout the United States, and worldwide—to study the causes of infectious and immune-mediated diseases, and to develop better means of preventing, diagnosing and treating these illnesses. 

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases.

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